Fix your Seating Woes with Modular Seating!
Updated: Feb 22, 2019
I was talking to a new(er) teacher the other day and he was struggling with classroom management. He had his desks permanently in groups of four, and the kids were distracting each other in their groups and having a really hard time maintaining focus. We teach middle schoolers, and they're a fairly bouncy bunch, so this wasn't surprising. I certainly have periods where I struggle with them as well.
So I suggested Modular Seating, which is what I do in my class. Now, I have no idea if this is an official name or if I just tagged it onto an existing idea, but basically for me, Modular Seating is based on your needs of each activity. But there is a definite structure to it.
Students (especially younger ones) need to have clear procedures in place. It makes them feel secure, they know what to do, and it massively diminishes the drama in your classroom, leading to a more peaceful and efficient learning environment. If the kids have to come in your room and figure out where they're sitting, and who they're sitting with, and you combine that with the normal drama of fights and friendships and exclusion, it's a recipe for a hard start and maybe a disrupted lesson unless you get it in hand quickly.
So my kids start EVERY period in rows for journal time. They come in, they get their journals, the prompt is on the board, and they write their journal with some quiet music from me in the background. They have assigned seating originally based on alphabetical order, then changed, BY ME, as necessary due to disruptive or supportive pairings. If I'm doing full class instruction or they are working independently, they stay in rows.
This is yesterday's class when they were writing their analytical paragraphs individually.
But here is the key: When they do paired or group activities, they move the desks and chairs around to fit those groups. That is AFTER they get their instructions for the activity. My classes have an average of 4 activities for a 70 minute class, so they go back and forth between setups as need dictates.
This is another period doing a different activity, in this case, annotating their poems for meter and rhyme scheme, which for them is a new skill, so they needed peer support.
That's it. It's clear, it's fast, it works. Sure, sometimes the kids ask for new seats, and sometimes I'll decide they need them, but in general, I find it's a major benefit for them to have a consistent seat that they don't have to stress about.
Rows may look "overly traditional" and unfriendly, but the key is that they only start and end in rows, and are often in collaborative groupings during the majority of the class, depending on the skill they're working on. You will need to set aside a couple minutes at the end of each period to make sure the desks get back where they need to go, but that's not hard.
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